After Ireland manager Martin O’Neill’s meeting with Stoke City this week, major questions now need answering from both O’Neill and the FAI.
How was O’Neill not signed up by the FAI by now considering they verbally agreed months ago? The FAI have had to sit back and watch their manager talk to Stoke knowing they could do nothing to prevent it.
Ireland missed out on qualification to the World Cup in Russia after losing to Denmark in the playoffs last November. It seemed clear the FAI were happy with their team in charge after offering both O’Neill and his assistant Roy Keane a contract extension before the two legged playoff and not withdrawing it in the aftermath of November’s devastating defeat.
So it would seem from the outside looking in that O’Neill was assessing all his options, as is his right as a free agent, but should that mean the FAI should re-sign him on his return to Dublin given his failure to land the Stoke job?
Some suggest the FAI have still being paying his wages despite being out of contract since November. They have allowed O’Neill to have his cake and eat it too.
The Irish job seems a decent back up option should nothing better arrive in the meantime.
Former Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores looked set to take up the manager’s position at Stoke before ultimately turning them down, but now the FAI too should still be looking to appoint a new man to take charge of the next campaign.
Now is the best time to appoint somebody new for a fresh start and not risk the next qualifying campaign by a possible exit by O’Neill midway during the campaign, as has happened with the Republic of Ireland in the past.
For whatever reason, no contract has been signed despite it being agreed months ago. O’Neill obviously wants the Stoke job, and he has been linked with the Everton and Nottingham Forest jobs in the past few weeks and months.
There is a real sense of a lack of commitment between the FAI and O’Neill as to who is doing the stalling we have yet find out.
O’Neill’s willingness to travel to England this week shows his eagerness to work once more in the Premier League and perhaps his head has been turned. Maybe criticism of his performance as the Irish boss by certain sections has riled him.
The FAI should now look at their own options and not bow to O’Neill on his return. There are many managers out there who could do a very good job with the players at Ireland’s disposal.
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny won many plaudits for his achievements with Dundalk both in the League of Ireland and their historic European campaign last season.
Brighton boss Chris Hughton too would a very well received appointment but highly unlikely given he his managing at the highest level in the Premier League albeit with Brighton who are in some respect over achieving this season, currently sitting in 12th place.
Former Irish boss Mick McCarthy has been with Ipswich Town since 2012 and is believed to be out of contract this summer. O’Neill’s assistant Roy Keane too has served his apprenticeship and let’s not forget he has held the reigns of Sunderland and Ipswich before and is not a novice in the role.
International football managers do miss the day to day contact they have with club football and with Ireland not in action competitively for some time to come perhaps O’Neill had doubts about signing a deal that was considered a formality.
The Euro 2020 campaign is a vital one for Ireland and the FAI must not let this episode or any possibility of it happening again mid campaign to disrupt that ultimate goal.
This whole episode shows it’s time O’Neill and the FAI parted ways and a new fresh approach can begin with a new man at the helm.
The FAI, and John Delaney in particular, need to rethink the way the handle contract negotiations.
Damien McEvoy, Pundit Arena